Wilco Kelderman put a strong ride during today’s tough Vuelta a España stage to finish 9th and retain his 3rd place in the general classification.
With three climbs to contend with, one category two, a category one and a summit finish atop the hors category Los Machucos, stage 17 was set to be a challenging one. The day opened with a 6-rider breakaway going clear, with one rider prevailing to take the stage victory.
The GC battle began on the final climb of the day, with an acceleration from two riders splitting the group in two. Going into the climb in a good position, Wilco was able to hold his place inside the first split as the gradients reached a gruelling maximum of 26 percent. With just four days left until the Vuelta reaches Madrid, GC contenders were keen to take precious seconds on their rivals wherever they could. Further accelerations saw Wilco slightly distanced, but in his familiar style he continued to pace his way up the climb finishing the day in 9th place. He remains on the GC podium after stage 17, currently sitting third overall.
“I gave everything I had today,” said Wilco after the stage. “It was a very steep final climb. This type of climb isn’t ideally suited to me, I much prefer the gradual climbs. Despite that I felt good today, the legs are good and I’m still going strong in like with what we expected at this point of the Vuelta.”
Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef added: “Today was a stage finish on top of the ‘monster’ of the Vuelta. Our goal for the race was to protect Wilco for as long as possible and the team did a good job here. They delivered him into position starting the climb and Wilco managed to follow the others up the climb. More splits formed but he limited losses to 15 seconds and is still 3rd on the GC which is great.”